I recently finished Gary Taubes’ new book, Why We Get Fat. The book makes several interesting points about diet and nutrition. Most importantly, he claims that it is carbohydrates and not calories or fat that are the cause of the obesity epidemic and the related spike in chronic diseases.
The first part of the book is an attack on the common “calories-in, calories-out” theory of why people put on weight.
“We don’t get too fat because we eat too much and move too little, and we can’t solve the problem or prevent it by consciously doing the opposite. This is the original sin, so to speak, and we’re never going to solve our own weight problems, let alone the societal problems of obesity and diabetes and the diseases that accompany them, until we understand and correct it.”
In the second part of the book, he delves into the science of obesity. Insulin is one of the essential factors in determining how much fat we accumulate, according to the research he references. He quotes George Cahill, former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, stating “Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat.” It is a compelling argument and a valuable read for any patient with diabetes looking for nutritional advice.
Taubes also wrote an article published April, 2011 in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Is Sugar Toxic?” In it he talks about Robert Lustig, a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Lustig’s work furthers the argument that sugar and high-fructose corn syrups are toxins.
“Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. ‘It’s not about the calories,’ he says. ‘It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.’”
The article explains that the true problem of sugar seems to be fructose (table sugar is half fructose and half glucose). Unlike glucose, which is processed by every cell in the body, fructose is processed only by the liver. According to Taubes, the liver turns much of the fructose into fat. This process also apparently causes insulin-resistance, a key factor in type-2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Taubes is convinced that fructose metabolism is key to understanding all these issues. His writing has sparked my interest in this topic. I hope to write more about it in the future.